New Bulldogs belong on GF stage: Beveridge

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Five years after the Western Bulldogs broke their premiership drought, coach Luke Beveridge says this time around his charges feel like they genuinely belong on the AFL's biggest stage.

Nine players from the surprise 2016 breakthrough flag will feature in Saturday's AFL grand final against Melbourne at Optus Stadium, but Beveridge says there is more expectation now.

"The overriding emotion that I could detect on our players' faces after we won it in '16 was, was surprise," Beveridge told reporters on Friday.

"If you look at their faces, how wide-eyed they were, it was almost like every one of them was saying to each other 'did that just happen?'

"Whereas I think this year, and in the lead-up to this game, we're different.

"We'd been in the top two for a fair period of the year, we believe that we belong there, we obviously fell out of it - stating the obvious - at the end of the year.

"But it hasn't been that sort of meteoric-type rise, it has been a team that's been consistent all year and so our expectations have been a little bit different."

Marcus Bontempelli was a 20-year-old sensation in 2016 and is now captain and a bona fide superstar.

"The responsibility's probably a little bit different. You try your best to ... guide your teammates, give them as as much insight as you can but there is a large part of it that is just exploratory I guess," Bontempelli said.

"You do experience the build up and obviously this one is unique with the week off in between, it is a little bit longer and you do your best to manage your emotions and still enjoy every bit of it.

"That was our focus the last time we got an opportunity like this was to enjoy the ride - you never know when your next opportunity might be."

This year's ride is very different.

After exiting quarantine, Beveridge and his charges have relished the typically-mundane activities that in these times are the "little luxuries" that make a strange build-up bearable.

Bontempelli has savoured local coffee while Beveridge cleared his head by swimming in pools at Fremantle and Scarborough - jokingly wary of the sharks that lie too far off the WA coast.

It's been needed amid another key contrast to 2016: heartbreak stories.

Unlike five years ago, when the Bulldogs named an unchanged line-up for the decider, Beveridge had to inform Ryan Gardner and Laitham Vandermeer that they would be omitted for the returning Alex Keath and Cody Weightman.

"It (telling Gardner and Vandermeer) was a mixture of them coming to my room and me going to them and just talking to them about the circumstances," he said.

"Ultimately the hope is the boys who have missed out have got this vision of themselves getting an opportunity maybe next year and in the future.

"They've been such an important part of our journey this year - 41 of our 43 have played and each one of them have helped us win important games. They definitely feel a significant part of it.

"Marcus and all his teammates have made them feel like they have been absolutely instrumental and critical to getting us here and creating this opportunity."

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